The playbook on innovation in sports production from the mind of a broadcast mad scientist

He’s a visionary, inventor, and content creator in media technologies. Rusty West, the Coordinating Producer of Live Events Technology for NBC Sports Bay Area and California, stopped by the Storyteller stage at the Sirius XM Studio in Wynn Las Vegas. Throughout the show, Rusty highlighted his passion for innovation in broadcast production, sharing stories from his experiences at NBC Sports, CBS Sports, and more. You won’t want to miss his latest project, which aims to deliver video in the cloud at record speeds, or the heartwarming story of how his daughter gained a core memory witnessing a hall of fame moment in person.

Early integration of Tagboard into NBC Sports live game productions

When we first found you guys and we’re going into this, Sean Maddison, my mentor, my favorite guy ever, Sharks producer. I’m explaining to him, I’m like, hey, look what we have for this. He’s like, I don’t care about some guy in his mom’s basement talking shit about the Sharks. I’m like, no, no, it’s so much more than that. Now he is all on board and sees the value of it.

So we have a host on the show and as she comes up with stories, sometimes mid-game, our technical producers can pull up stuff as it happens live, you know, outside the league. So you think about baseball, and someone throwing the perfect game, how do we get that footage in our game? We couldn’t before, it was too big a lift to do that. Now, we just go on the social page, it’s already on there, we pull it down and we’re showing that almost as if it’s live.

A moment of production chaos with Pops

My dad is a diehard football fan, high school football coach for 30 years, never misses any games. So in the old Sportvision days, in the middle point, there was a time where we used to travel two folks to all the games, but then with prices they cut one of those positions. So it was just a lead that went out and then you get a local, it would usually be like a college kid, or an intern, or something like that. It’s really to hoof  the camera around, help you do the basic setup.

So I’m like, hey Pops, you want to do this? So we do a Cal game. Aaron Rodgers is quarterback. Jeff Tedford is a coach. My Dad is diehard Cal, so I should have given him a pep talk before. But hey, he’s a professional, you know? I mean, you’d think. So long story short, I’m looking around. I’m in the truck like, where’s my dad? I looked down to the field and Cal is doing their walkthrough. My dad is standing next to Tedford, shoulder to shoulder with him, with his little digital camera, because he doesn’t have a cell phone, taking pictures of everything. And I’m like, oh my God, he’s going to get me fired.

He comes up to the press box and I go, Pops, where you been? He’s like, I was walking around and stuff. Then he continues, first off, did you know that the phones in the press booth can make long distance calls? And I’m like, I know that, how do you know that? He’s like, I called your cousin in Pittsburgh. I’m like, pops, you can’t do that. First off, where were you? And he’s like, oh, I’m just walking around, and I tell him I saw you on the field. He’s like, how do you see me? I’m like, we literally have 18 cameras pointing everywhere. He’s like, no, no, no, don’t worry. It was fine. I talked to Tedford and he asked me what I was doing down there and I was like I’m the yellow line guy – I gotta make sure the undulation is correct for the fab to make sure that the perpendicular is right. And he’s like, do you need us to get off the field? He’s like no,  you guys will be fine, I’ll work around you. I’m like pops, you’re absolutely going to kill me. I still get sweaty thinking about that story.

Looking back on when his daughter got to be in the booth with Jenny Cavnar

Here’s my nine year old daughter. She gets it at nine, now she’s really going to get it at 18. So of course, coming into the booth, she’s big eyed and it’s at the Coliseum, so it’s cool. As they came in and authenticated Jenny’s headset, her notes, her badge, like everything. I mean, we’re in there for that. I could just see my daughter’s eyes getting big and Jenny is just the nicest person ever and tells her to come on over and take a picture with her. It was Jenny’s day, you know, but she signed on a ball, “dream big”. So that is my daughter’s prized possession, it’s in a frame with a baseball card, but instead of a card, we have a picture of the two of them. It’s on her dresser and that’ll be with her for life, you know? Having her see that and knowing that she got that at nine years old and she’s really going to get it when she’s 18.